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Praxis story- motivating readers

eheller's picture

My praxis is in a third grade classroom. I come in the mornings, which is when they work on literacy. They usually do PSSA reading prep, which entails reading a passage and answering questoions about it. Sometimes they read a book together. The students in the class are at very different reading levels. Most are average, some are behind, and a few are advanced. One of the students who is the most behind in reading is Nick. Nick lives in a homeless shelter with his mother and does not show a huge interest in school. He reads at about a first-grade level, and gets very discourged when he reads, usually choosing to give up and not finish the assignment. Other students sometimes make fun of him when he pronounces words wrong or gets stuck on a word.

A few weeks ago, Nick won a Spiderman comic book in the class lottery. He loves this comic book, and often gets in trouble for reading it when he is supposed to be working. I often am asked to work with Nick, and when we finish the assigned reading, he always asks me to read the comic book with him. He reads the speech bubbles of Spiderman, and I read the villian. In this context, Nick likes reading and is eager to read. He is motivated to sound out the hard words and is not embarrassed if he does not know a word. It is so interesting for me how differently he thinks about academic reading and reading in comic books. In one context, reading is a tedious chore and a source of shame and frustration. In another context, reading is fun and a way to understand a story. This makes me wonder how literacy curriculum can be designed to reach more kids like Nick. It's a shame that the school places so much emphasis on PSSA, because I think if kids were allowed to read more "fun" books and there was less focus on reading strategies for testing, kids would enjoy school more, pay more attention, and their reading would improve. 


jccohen's picture



What a rich story - I agree that it's very suggestive in terms of the role of fun in kids' reading and more broadly in their learning.  I wonder too if having won this comic book in the classroom also makes it especially valuable to Nick.  Does the teacher know that he's connecting with the comic book in this way?  Although PSSA-driven curriculum indeed tends to be dry, uninspired, and uninspiring, it's also true that for Nick (and many others) the key skill here is reading with some fluency and interest...  Can you imagine ways to use this kind of learning about Nick to inspire other kinds of curriculum, for him and others, that would still address standards/testing?